RB24 The Athens Arts & Music Scene 1975 to 1985 recap

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Art Rocked Rabbit Box!

June 11, 2014 at The Melting Point

Art Rocks Athens (a months-long arts event celebrating the arts and music scene in Athens from 1975 – 1985) and Rabbit Box got together on June 11, 2014 to put on a unique night of stories.

Before the 1970’s, Athens was a rather sleepy, conventional Southern town. There wasn’t much to do downtown. “The sidewalks rolled up at 9 PM,” as one storyteller put it. So the young people of Athens, in line with the times, set out to make things more interesting. They would create their own fun, their own art, their own music and rebellious culture. Out of this fireball of creativity – much of it centered in UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Fine Art – came rock groups like R.E.M., The B-52’s, Pylon and many, many more.

The folks who told stories on this night in June were there! They helped get the ball rolling – the ball that is still bouncing around, making Athens the font of creativity and fun it is today.

Maureen McLaughlin (a director of Art Rocks Athens) started things off with her description of how creative cross-pollination started happening between New York City and Athens, with Maureen, the “queen bee” of networkers, smack in the middle of it all. Keith Bennett told us about his discombobulated arrival in NYC for The B-52’s first tour and how he handled his roles as singer Cindy’s Wilson’s boyfriend and also new roadie for the band. Roy Bell talked about his strong friendship with Ricky Wilson (original guitarist for The B-52’s who died in 1885) when they were growing up together in Athens. As teens they were two of the few (but proud) long-haired boys around town. Judith McWillie told a story about an intriguing, boundary-smashing figure in Athens in the 1970’s. DeeDee was a black, gender-bending, glamorous, tough girl who won the respect of the both townspeople and students with her unapologetic individuality. For Judith and many other Athens artists, DeeDee was an inspiration both personally and artistically. As Crackerjack storyteller, Jeff Hannan described the original, Athens, rock ‘n roll party scene and how awesome it was…. and continues to be (at least for him). Rick Baker told a story about a long-running, late-late night lemonade (or “lemon-aid”) stand that had people lined up on Meigs St. and around the block. Curtis Crowe regaled us with a description of a memorable and suspenseful night playing drums for Pylon at a gig in Philadelphia, opening up for Gang of Four. And Bryan Cook told about a certain incident involving a limo he rode in with three of the guys from R.E.M.